PRESS RELEASE: Avoid Pre-election Arrests

TinubuSeven days to the commencement of the 2015 polls, there is palpable fear in the opposition camp that the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) plans to clamp its leaders in detention using the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In pursuance of our age-long advocacy for free and fair elections and the promotion of sustainable democracy which we started one year after the June 12, 1993 election, we are constrained to intervene again following the alarm raised yesterday by the main opposition party that FGN plans to embark on the plot mentioned above.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) takes a peep into history to remind FGN, the good people of Nigeria and the international community of a similar general clampdown of the opposition on the eve of elections which led to the first military coup in 1996. Nigeria never really recovered from the ricochets of that military putsch.
Goats were tied overnight outside the homes of members of the opposition as the latter slept. They were woken up by policemen in the morning and accused of stealing goats. Other trumped-up charges were leveled against them. Many were clamped in jails across the country. This tyrannical suppression militarized the opposition and forced them to launch a fierce resistance. Violence erupted in several parts of Nigeria and this prompted soldiers to stage the coup.
This scenario is frightening because of its impact on the average Nigerian. When the hen perches on a rope, neither the hen nor the rope will remain stable. The streets will no longer be safe for children to go to school. Workers may stay at home for their own safety. Markets may shut down leading to hunger and starvation. There will be general topsy-turvy. Our hospitals may find it difficult to cope with the likely high casualties. The rest is better imagined than experienced.
MURIC appeals to President Jonathan to resist the temptation to use the power of incumbency in an arbitrary fashion. The current government has demonstrated the capacity for such action against members of the opposition. We recall the arrest of the spokesperson of the main opposition, Alhaji Lai Muhammed and many others during the last gubernatorial election in Osun State.

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This must not happen again. FGN must not re-enact the 1965 clampdown on opposition which led to the first military coup. Such arrests can only be politically motivated and it is capable of plunging the country into pandemonium. It is simply an anachronism in 21st century democracy. FGN should show Nigerians good intention this time around.
In the same vein, we appeal to the opposition to be less aggressive. FGN has accused the opposition of setting up an illegal radio station. An unregistered radio station elicits several possibilities, none of which is palatable. Nonetheless, we note that the opposition has denied any knowledge of the radio station.
We urge members of the international community, particularly Western powers, to avoid contributing negatively to the Nigerian electioneering process. In this regard, we strongly condemn the comment attributed to a former envoy of the United States who warned yesterday that a vote for the main opposition candidate is a vote for calamity in Nigeria. This statement is reckless, irresponsible and undemocratic. It exposes the envoy as a square peg in a round hole.

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Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

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